Archive for October, 2013

For Calvin, salvation flows from our union with the living and exalted Jesus. Unless he dwells in us, and we in him, his death, resurrection, and exaltation are of no value to us. In other words, the Spirit unites us to Jesus, our Benefactor, who bestows on us the benefits won through his accomplishment.

Calvin applies these biblical and theological insights to the relation of justification and sanctification:

Although we may distinguish them, Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself. Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker in his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces (1 Cor. 1:13). Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy, he bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other. Thus it is clear how true it is that we are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness (Institutes, 3.16.1).

Read the whole piece here

Galatians 3

Posted: October 25, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity

GALATIANS 3 COULD USEFULLY occupy us for an entire book as long as this one. But here I shall restrict myself to two observations.

First, in the first five verses Paul appeals to experience. He asks the Galatians whether their conversion and all their experience of the grace of God and the power of the Spirit came to them as a function of their observance of the Law of Moses, or as a function of their faith. After all, Christ had been placarded before their eyes as the crucified Savior (Gal. 3:1). They believed what they heard (Gal. 3:2), and they received the Spirit. This stance had cost them: they had suffered persecution (Gal. 3:4). Moreover, they had witnessed miraculous, transforming works of the Spirit, all in function of their God-given faith (Gal. 3:5). Why, then, should they think that, having begun with the Spirit, having begun by faith, they should now try to attain their “goal”—presumably further steps of maturation and knowledge of God—by carefully observing the law? That approach, Paul implies, is in contradiction to their conversion, a slur on the suffering they have endured, and in antithesis to their own experience of the power of the Spirit of God.

What this means is that the path to the Christian’s “goal” is faith and the life and power of the Spirit, not observance of multiplied law. To think otherwise is to be “foolish,” to listen to those who have “bewitched” us with false notions of spirituality that tear us away from Jesus crucified (see Gal. 3:1).

Second, the argument in the rest of the chapter focuses not on the individual Christian’s experience, but on the history of God’s redemptive purpose. In other words, Paul is not saying that the law of God must operate in each unbeliever’s conscience if that person is to come to Christ. That may or may not be true, but it is not what Paul is addressing. Rather, Paul seeks to establish the priority of faith for our justification as far back in history as Abraham (Gal. 3:6–9). That immediately raises the question as to why the Law of Moses was “added” at all. Paul does not here offer a complete analysis of the various purposes served by the Law, but emphasizes certain points: it was not added to overturn the principles already established at the time of Abraham, nor to offer an alternative path to salvation. Rather, it made human sin clear and undeniable as it exposed it as transgression; thus it drove people, across the redemptive-historical time line, to Jesus Christ. One of the ways in which Paul’s understanding of the Old Testament differs from that of his Jewish colleagues is that he insists on reading it along its temporal axis: Paul is explaining how the Bible fits together.

 

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog

This Sunday is Reformation Sunday which honors the Reformation of the church. Here is a snippet Steve Lawson gave on sola scriptura:

Arising out of the reformation of the 16th century, there sounded a trumpet blast that rallied the hearts of God’s people: sola Scriptura, which is Latin for “Scripture Alone.” It really served as the foundation for the four other solas: sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria. And these five fit together as one statement of truth—one declaration of the true saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Think of a magnificent, ancient temple and a foundation upon which everything rests. That’s sola Scriptura. Everything that we believe, obey, embrace, and hold dear in the convictions of our soul is based upon this foundation of sola Scriptura. Rome said, “We accept Scripture, but it is Scripture and. Scripture and church tradition; Scripture and ecclesiastical hierarchies; Scripture and the church councils; Scripture and papal authority. And the Reformers said, coming back to the Bible, “No, it is sola Scriptura: Scripture alone.” And if anything else is added to the foundation of the church, there will be cracks in the foundation and it will not hold up the teaching and the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, they said no to the Anabaptists and the libertines who wanted to add their dreams and visions and new revelations. They said no; it is Scripture alone.

Upon this foundation are three massive pillars, which really frame and uphold the Gospel in its most basic and elementary proposition: Sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus – salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Rome wanted to add good works and church membership and church attendance and baptism and marriage and last rites and indulgences and Mary and the treasury of merit. And they just backed up their dump truck and kept adding and adding and adding all kinds of rubbish. And the Reformers, because they came back to the Word of God—Scripture alone—they said, “No. Salvation, the one true saving Gospel, is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”

And when that is in place, and these three immovable sturdy pillars are in place, then the roof and the pinnacle over the hull that points upward is soli Deo gloria, “for the glory of God alone.” That is the entire Reformation in a nutshell. That is the entire forest in a small acorn. That is the entire matter reduced to its most minimal parts. Everything rests upon sola Scriptura.

Read the rest at link below

http://thecripplegate.com/strange-fire-the-puritan-commitment-to-sola-scriptura-steve-lawson/#more-11492

Galatians 2

Posted: October 24, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity

SOME COMMENTATORS UNDERSTAND Paul in Galatians 2:1ff. to be saying that after some years he returned to Jerusalem to set before the Jerusalem apostles and other leaders the Gospel he had been preaching among the Gentiles, because he wanted to have himself checked out. He did this privately, of course; yet the fact of the matter is that Paul was afraid he was running or had run his race in vain (Gal. 2:2). This proves that Paul was not as secure in his own mind as he pretends to be in the previous chapter. There is a sense in which he was a derivative apostle.

This reading will not stand up. What Paul means is something quite different. The Galatians have been invaded by agitators from the outside, men who have presented themselves as being authorized by Jerusalem, as somehow supported by the “regular” apostles. The book of Acts supplies evidence that Paul was sometimes dogged by such people. So he goes to Jerusalem, not to have his gospel validated or recast (at this point, Paul is not going to change his mind or direction), but to ensure there are no misrepresentations among the Jerusalem leaders as to what he is preaching, and to encourage those leaders to disassociate themselves entirely from the “false brothers” who are unfairly appealing to Jerusalem to damage Paul and his ministry among the Gentiles. In short, Paul takes steps to ensure that he is not running his race in vain; these agitators are trying to undo his work. He wants to take all proper steps to undermine their pretensions and destroy their influence. Acts 15 shows that that is precisely what the Jerusalem Council achieved. Indeed, Galatians 2:11–14 suggests that Paul achieved gospel consistency more quickly than some of the other apostles. Far from submitting to their judgment on the content of what he was preaching, he was prepared to administer his own rebukes if he saw them behaving inconsistently.

Although there are many piercingly important theological issues that emerge from these confrontations, at this juncture we may fasten on a practical one. While the Gospel is something worth contending for, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about this business. When Peter’s inconsistency is public and doing public damage, Paul’s rebuke is public (Gal. 2:11–21). When Paul is trying to clear the air, find out what is going on, and present the tenor of his own work, he approaches the others “privately” (Gal. 2:2). His concern, after all, is the advance of the undiluted Gospel, not his own public vindication. When we find ourselves in the place where we must tenaciously contend for the Gospel, we must think through how to do so most winsomely and strategically.

 

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog

Galatians 1

Posted: October 23, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity

THE OPENING LINES OF Paul’s letters are usually crafted with great care. The simplest form of letters in the ancient Greek world was: “From me, to you, Greetings”—often followed by some statement of thanks, and then the body of the letter. But Paul’s customary practice is to “tweak” every component to anticipate what is coming in the rest of his letter. Thus a study of his letter as a whole enriches our understanding of his opening lines—and vice versa (Gal. 1:1–5).

(1) Paul does not always introduce himself as “an apostle.” Sometimes he uses no designation (e.g., 1 and 2 Thess.); sometimes he refers to himself as a “servant” (Rom. 1:1). Here he is “Paul, an apostle” because some people were troubling the Galatian Christians with a “different gospel” that was “really no gospel at all” (1:6–7), and to do so they had to undermine Paul’s authority and dismiss him as, at best, a derivative apostle.

(2) Not so, Paul says: not only is he an apostle, but he was “sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father” (1:1). His apostleship was not mediated, as if he had been commissioned by the Jerusalem church, or by some individual first-class apostle there. Rather, he was sent “by Jesus Christ,” based on his Damascus Road experience of seeing the risen and exalted Jesus himself, and by God the Father.

(3) Paul further designates God the Father as the one who raised Jesus from the dead. Paul had seen the raised Jesus, the resurrected Jesus. In his years as a devout Pharisee, he had dismissed Jesus as an evil pretender, a malefactor, cursed by God as was clear from the manner of his death. Seeing the resurrected Jesus for himself made Paul rethink everything. Jesus was vindicated by God himself, and the good news of which Paul was an apostle is grounded in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

(4) However much he insists on his apostolic status and authority, Paul wisely associates himself and his teaching with “all the brothers” with him (1:2). If the Galatians angle off toward this “different gospel,” they must know that they are not only turning away from Paul, but from the countless believers who agree with Paul.

(5) Instead of the traditional greeting Chairein, Paul uses the Christian word grace(charis) and the Jewish greeting peace (shalom in Hebrew) and grounds these blessings in the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus (1:3–5)—not on any particular relationship to the Law of Moses.

(6) Astonishingly, Paul leaves out the “thanks” section, and immediately drives toward his astonished rebuke of the impending defection of his readers (1:6–10). However rare, there are times when a rebuke will not wait.

 

 

From D.A. Carson’s Blog

1 Corinthians 13

Posted: October 22, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity

ALTHOUGH 1 CORINTHIANS 13 FORMS part of a sustained argument that runs through chapters 12–14, the passage constitutes such a lovely unit with so many wonderfully evocative lines that it has called forth countless extended treatments. Today I shall reflect a little on the first three verses.

This text does not say that love is everything and that the other things mentioned—speaking in tongues, the gift of prophecy, an ability to fathom mysteries and all knowledge, a faith that can move mountains, self-denying surrender of all possessions for the sake of the poor, and suffering a martyr’s death—are nothing. Rather, it insists that those things are utterly insignificant unless they are accompanied by love. Love does not displace them; its absence renders them pointless and ultimately valueless.

This paragraph is calculated to abase the arrogant. History offers sad examples of people who have become proud of their gift of tongues, of their prophetic gift, even of their philanthropy and self-sacrifice. But it is a contradiction in terms to be proud of one’s love, in any Christian sense of love. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why these other virtues are destroyed if unaccompanied by love.

One of the most striking features of this statement about love is how it rules out of bounds one of the definitions of love that still persists in some Christian circles. They say that Christian love does not belong to the emotional realm, but is nothing other than an unswerving resolve to seek the other’s good. That is why, they say, love can be commanded: one may thoroughly dislike the other person, but if one conscientiously resolves upon his or her good, and acts accordingly, it is still love. Quite frankly, that sort of casuistry is reductionistic rubbish. What has just been dubbed “love” is nothing other than resolute altruism. But in these verses Paul firmly distinguishes between altruism and love: “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames” (1 Cor. 13:3): here are both altruism and self-sacrifice, but Paul can imagine both without love. So love must be something other than, or more than, mere altruism and self-sacrifice.

It may be difficult to provide a perfect definition for Christian love. But it is not difficult to find its supreme example. Christ’s love for us is not grounded in our loveliness, but in his own character. His love is not merely sentimental, yet it is charged with incalculable affection and warmth. It is resolute in its self-sacrifice, but never merely mechanical self-discipline. If we wish to come to terms with the apostolic depiction of Christian love as “the most excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31b; see also the meditation for October 11) that all believers must follow, we need only imitate Jesus Christ.

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog

1 cor 11

Posted: October 18, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Studies, Christianity, Discipleship

THREE OBSERVATIONS ABOUT the Lord’s Supper, from the many that could be drawn from Paul’s treatment of it (1 Cor. 11:17–34):

First, it is a temporary ordinance. It is to be observed only “until he comes” (11:26). In part this is because of its “memorial” function (“do this in remembrance of me,” 1 Cor. 11:24). In the new heaven and the new earth, transformed believers will not need a rite like this one to “remember” Jesus, for he will perpetually be the center of their focus and adoration. Knowing this, each time we participate in the Lord’s Supper we are not only helped to look backward to Jesus’ broken body, but forward to the consummation.

Second, properly observed, the Lord’s Supper is to have a kerygmatic function. The wordkerygmatic comes from the verb kerysso, “to proclaim”: Paul says that by this Supper weproclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (11:26)—though he uses a different verb here. Normally the verb used is found in an evangelistic context: we proclaim or announce the Gospel to people still unconverted. If that is what Paul means, then one of the functions of the Lord’s Supper—its kerygmatic function—is evangelism. Certainly I have been in churches where that is the case. Unbelievers are part of the service. They are warned not to partake, but are encouraged to observe and reflect on what they see and hear. Something of the significance of the rite is explained, perhaps its function as witness to Jesus the bread of life who gives his life for the life of the world (John 6:51). The ordinance and the word together proclaim the Lord’s death.

Third, the approach of the Lord’s Supper provides an opportunity for each Christian to examine himself or herself before eating the bread and drinking the cup (11:27–28). Interpreters disagree as to what the failure to recognize the body of the Lord means (11:29). To evaluate the options is not possible in this context. I may simply record my conclusion: Paul warns that “anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord,” which was offered up on the cross and to which witness is borne in this rite, “eats and drinks judgment on himself.” How could it be otherwise? To say, by participating, “We remember,” and “We proclaim,” while cherishing sin, is to approach this table in an unworthy manner; it is to sin “against the body and blood of the Lord” (11:27). But regardless of whether this particular interpretation is correct, the warning itself must be taken with utmost seriousness. It is not a question of being good enough, for no one is. The only “worthy manner” by which to approach this Supper is contrition and faith.

 

 

from D.A. Carson’s blog